Another hub of island life lies about 40 kilometers east of El Porvenir , centered around the inhabited islands of Corazón de Jesús and Narganá (pop. 12,685), which are linked by a footbridge.
These are the least traditional islands in the archipelago. There are more concrete buildings than thatch-roofed huts, and most younger women do not wear traditional clothing. There’s electricity around the clock, and at night residents gather in the homes and stores of those with TVs to watch shows, with great enthusiasm.
These islands are unlikely to interest most travelers. Since the closing a few years back of the Kwadule Eco-Lodge, once the archipelago’s most upscale hotel, there is no appealing place to stay here. Only those who’ve spent a great deal of time on the more traditional islands are likely to find these more modern and less colorful ones of great interest, and only then for the contrast they provide.
The more southerly island, Narganá, has the archipelago’s one true bank, a small branch of the Banco Nacional de Panamá. The central square has a statue of Charles Robinson, a pivotal figure in Kuna Yala ’s 1925 war against Panama. Public phones are at the side of the square, and a hospital, school, church, and police station are nearby. It also has the best place to eat and the only hotel.
With quite a bit of humor, residents have named the “barrios” of this small island after those in Panama City —the vicinity of the lone bank thus becomes the area bancaria (banking area), the posher homes are in “Paitilla,” the poorer ones are in “Chorrillo,” the main walkway is “Avenida Central,” and so on.
Corazón de Jesús is across a short footbridge (watch for loose planks) on the seaward-facing side of the island. It has the airstrip, a simple restaurant, a pool hall, and little else.
Isla Tigre, also called Río Tigre, is a few kilometers east. A visit to the traditional Kuna community here is the most common day trip for visitors.
The only hotel on either island is Hotel Noris (public phones tel. 299-9009 or 299-9090, US$10 s or, US$15 d with fan,; US$15 s or, US$20 d with air-conditioning/c), a pink, two-story concrete building facing the mainland that has seven spartan but okay rooms. Some have air-conditioning and private toilets and showers; the rest are more basic, with fans and shared baths. Room 1 is the nicest. The location isn’t very nice, however—it’s right on a somewhat swampy shore that smells of sewage. Boat rides to a nearby beach are US$5 per person; trips to Isla Tigre are US$15. Meals can also be arranged. Laundry is US$3 a load. Call one of the public phones and ask for Paco, the half-Kuna, half-Spanish owner of the place.
Restaurante Nali’s Café (6:30 a.m.– 10:30 p.m. daily) is the nicest place to eat on either island. A full seafood meal costs no more than US$4, and the food is both good and nicely presented. More basic dinners cost US$2.50. Breakfast offerings include eggs, ham, and sausage. Diners, if they want, can rent a film at the café and watch it on the TV inside. But most will probably prefer to sit in the open-air area, which is right on the beach overlooking the channel between Narganá and Corazón de Jesús.
A couple of minisupers in town carry basic supplies. There’s a pleasant-looking fonda (tavern) just after the bridge over on Corazón de Jesús. It’s next to the pool hall, Billar Akuanusa, which can look intimidating from the outside but is actually a friendly place to have a beer and knock balls around.
It takes about 2.5 hours by motorized cayuco (dugout canoe) to reach these islands from El Porvenir . Unless you’ve got a yacht, it’s much more practical to come by plane. The airstrip is on Corazón de Jesús. Air Panama has daily flights that leave Panama City  at 6 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The return flight leaves around 6:45 a.m. Airfare is US$61 each way. The flight takes about 35 minutes if it’s nonstop and can last longer than an hour if not.